Laenor dressed for wedding

The inaugural season of "House of the Dragon" is halfway over, and the fifth episode, "We Light the Way," makes a lot of enormous moves in just a single hour. With the show’s largest time jump yet expected to take place in the very next episode — which will oust Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Queen Alicent Hightower and replaced them with Emma D’arcy and Olivia Cooke, respectively — this episode had a lot to set up, and it sure did deliver, giving us an installment that may just be the series’ best episode to date.

"We Light the Way" provides the clearest setup for the eventual Dance of the Dragons — the civil war fought between Targaryens for the Iron Throne — yet, giving nearly every major player in this game (of thrones) time to plot and strategize as more of them inch closer to the ultimate seat of power. Let’s break down every important thing that happens in the fifth episode of "House of the Dragon."

Daemon’s dirty deeds, round two

Daemon smirking

Last week, Daemon’s (Matt Smith) wildly chaotic nature led him into the underbelly of King’s Landing, into a very awkwardly intimate entanglement with his niece Rhaenyra, and into a situation where he experienced, uh, some performance issues that stopped that tryst dead in its tracks. After all of that, he finds himself banished back to the Vale to his wife’s side by his angry brother King Viserys I (Paddy Considine), and at the start of the episode, he certainly does head back to the Vale… only to do something completely despicable.

"We Light the Way" opens in the Vale with Lady Rhea Royce (Rachel Redford), head of her House and Lady of Runestone, spurning her cousin to ride alone on her horse near the Eyrie, only to come face to face with her disloyal husband. Clearly, there’s exactly zero love lost between Rhea and Daemon, with the former mocking the latter over being replaced in the line of succession by Rhaenyra. Daemon, however, quickly physically overpowers Rhea, knocking her off her horse and seemingly paralyzing her before killing her with a rock offscreen; later, it seems that most of the Realm has accepted the obvious lie that Rhea, a skilled rider, died in a "hunting accident."

Daemon returns to court, apparently uninvited, for Rhaenyra’s wedding, and continues his rotten behavior, making a scene with his betrothed niece right in front of Viserys. Daemon may not directly contribute to the wedding’s tragic turn, but he’ll almost certainly get in more trouble next week.

Alicent comes into her own

Alicent standing in green

For four episodes, Alicent Hightower has been nothing more than a pawn, caught between her loyalty to her father Otto (Rhys Ifans), her love for her former best friend Rhaenyra, and her strategic marriage to Viserys. However, in this episode, spurred by her father’s banishment from court, she ends up charting her own course — and making some pretty big statements about her loyalty in the process.

Though she initially believes Rhaenyra that nothing happened with Daemon, Alicent is caught off guard when Ser Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) mentions that Rhaenyra received some contraceptive tea on the orders of her father Viserys. After seeking information from Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel), who immediately confesses to his affair with Rhaenyra, Alicent clearly takes a new approach to the situation, perhaps driven to unseat Rhaenyra and put her son with Viserys, Aegon II, on the Throne. Notably, at Rhaenyra’s wedding, she arrives strategically late clad in green; as Larys notes to his brother in the on screen audience, that’s a color of war for House Hightower. Alicent also chats with her uncle at the wedding, who tells her that "Oldtown," her father’s home, "stands behind her," making it clear that she’s fully ready for whatever battle comes next.

Targaryen versus Velaryon

Rhaenys Corlys Viserys talking

After Viserys chooses Alicent over Laena Velaryon (played in this episode by Savannah Steyn) in the series’ second episode as his second wife, there’s a serious wedge between the king and his former council member Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Touissant) — and in "We Light the Way," Viserys figures out a different way to join their two ancient houses. With Rhaenyra in need of a husband, Viserys proposes that his daughter, ostensibly the future Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, marry Corlys’ son Laenor (Theo Nate).

Corlys and his wife Rhaenys (Eve Best), Viserys’ cousin who also has a claim to the throne but is known as "The Queen Who Never Was," are happy about this prospective match, but are concerned that their Velaryon line won’t live on despite the patriarchal system where children bear the names of their fathers. Ultimately, Viserys comes up with a solution: any children Rhaenyra and Laenor have together will be named Velaryon, but should any of them take the throne, they’ll assume the Targaryen name. Right. This seems super iron-clad and not like it’ll cause any issues in the line of succession going forward!

Laenor’s secret love

Rhaenyra Laenor talking

Rhaenyra, as we know, has been getting into romantic entanglements all over King’s Landing, between making out with her uncle Daemon and seducing her personal knight Ser Criston — and as it turns out, Laenor has some secrets to hide as well. After their meeting with Viserys, Corlys and Rhaenys discuss their son’s "true nature," which becomes quite clear in a scene between Laenor and his secret lover, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod).

Rhaenyra seems to understand what’s going on with Laenor, and during a walk together, she addresses it head on, telling Laenor she prefers "roasted duck" over "goose." (Subtle.) After telling her future husband they can "dine" on whatever they want so long as they perform their duties as husband and wife and, eventually, queen and king consort. Ser Joffrey definitely sees the perks of this arrangement, and it’s obvious he’s pretty shrewd as well, pointing out to Laenor that Rhaenyra clearly has someone on the side as well. However, as we discover later, Ser Joffrey’s cunning gets the better of him in the end.

Viserys’ health takes a huge turn

Viserys Rhaenyra Laenor wedding

From the very beginning of "House of the Dragon," it’s clear that Viserys’ physical health is, uh, bad. Really bad, in fact. Viserys spends basically the entire run time of "We Light the Way" with a nasty cough, appearing weak and unsteady, and at a certain point, he ends up getting treatment from leeches once again, despite one maester’s offer to try an herbal poultice. While he’s laid up, Viserys takes some time to reflect on his legacy, wondering if people will remember him as a good king, which certainly seems like an ominous bit of dialogue if there ever was one.

By the time of Rhaenyra’s wedding, Viserys seems like he’s in pretty dire straits, and the episode ends with his collapse just after Rhaenyra and Laenor are officially married. There’s no definitive sign that Viserys is no longer among the living, but it certainly doesn’t look good — and if the series is setting up their big time jump, Viserys’ death would certainly get things moving in that direction.

The woes of Ser Criston Cole

Criston Rhaenyra romantic

Though he’s initially reluctant to get involved with Rhaenyra — a Targaryen princess, the declared heir to the throne, and a person he’s sworn to protect — Ser Criston Cole clearly falls hard and fast for the blonde beauty. In the wake of their night together in the previous episode, it’s not entirely clear if the two have gotten down and dirty since, but it doesn’t matter: Ser Criston is smitten, and begs Rhaenyra to abandon her family and the throne and run away with him to one of the Free Cities. Rhaenyra seems to hesitate briefly but then demurs, saying she must marry a nobleman but can still be with him. Ser Criston shakes her off, though, saying he won’t be her "whore."

After confessing his "sin" to Alicent and revealing that Rhaenyra shed her status as a "maiden" before marriage, Ser Criston kind of just broods on the sidelines for the rest of the episode… until Rhaenyra’s wedding. When Ser Joffrey approaches Ser Criston, telling him that they’ll all have to keep the new royal couple’s secrets safe, Ser Criston appears to snap, beating Ser Joffrey until the guy is flat out missing his whole face. Disappearing from the wedding, Ser Criston is just about to take his own life with a sword to the stomach when he’s interrupted by none other than Queen Alicent. Where the connection between the queen and the knight besotted with her rival remains to be seen.

Red Wedding: the redux

Rhaenyra Laenor Viserys wedding

Weddings really never went well on "Game of Thrones," and clearly, "House of the Dragon" is continuing this tradition. Viserys wants the wedding to be grand and over-the-top in celebration of his daughter, and at first, it is, despite interruptions from a smirking Daemon and a clearly angry Alicent. Before long, though, things go very wrong very quickly.

Between Ser Criston killing Ser Joffrey in a brawl that escalates throughout the crowd, Viserys collapsing right after his daughter is officially wed, and the bride and groom entering into an arranged marriage, "We Light the Way" definitely has huge "The Rains of Castamere" energy. Beyond that, let’s not forget that Corlys really wanted his daughter to marry Viserys so that his children would definitely be in line for the throne, but he got Rhaenyra instead; the Red Wedding directly happens because Walder Frey (David Bradley) wants Robb Stark (Richard Madden) as a son-in-law, but gets Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) instead.

When will Episode 6 of House of the Dragon air?

Rhaenyrs smirking

Episode 6 of "House of the Dragon" is set to air on Sunday, September 25 at 9 PM EST on both HBO and HBO Max. Considering how this episode ended, it seems very likely that Alcock and Carey just took their final bows as Rhaenyra and Alicent, with D’arcy and Cooke ready to take their respective crowns.

Alcock and Carey both shone brightly during the first half of this season, but it’ll also be fascinating to see these characters mature into adults with very real power to yield if Viserys is, in fact, out of the picture by the time Episode 6 airs. That said, with "We Light the Way" marking the halfway point of this show’s first season, the story that will eventually lead to the Dance of the Dragons is in excellent shape. With finely drawn characters, excellent performances, and plenty more Targaryen history to explore, "House of the Dragon" seems poised to impress audiences week after week until its first season draws to a close.